Buck's Blog

The Stream-of-Conciousness Journal of a Wargamer
  • .: Welcome to my blog :.

    I'm John R. "Buck" Surdu. I have two Web pages that contain relatively static information about my professional life (including papers I've written) and my hobby life (including information about rules I've written and my wargaming projects). This blog is where I plan to post personal tidbits, like vacation pictures, wargaming projects, etc. Enjoy!
  • Hide the picnic lunch. The ants are coming!

    Posted By on December 21, 2014

    The giant red army ant battlegroup

    The giant red army ant battlegroup

    I recently ordered some 10mm giant ants from Magister Militium for my fantasy armies.  I went back and forth on whether to make them black ants or red ants.  I decided on red.

    The giant red army ants with spears

    The giant red army ants with spears

    I like the looks of these figures.  The giant ants are in sort of a centaur pose.

    The giant red army ants with swords

    The giant red army ants with swords

    Giant red army ants with crossbows

    Giant red army ants with crossbows

    Giant red army ants alongside their praying mantis allies

    Giant red army ants alongside their praying mantis allies

    I thought the praying mantises looked too crowded with all six on a base and too open with just three, so I placed a couple of additional ants on the base as sort of a combined arms team.

    Giant red army ants riding on giant beetles

    Giant red army ants riding on giant beetles

    HAWKs Night

    Posted By on December 20, 2014

    Dave sporting his fashion accessories during Chris Fischer's stomp robot play test

    Dave sporting his fashion accessories during Chris Fischer's stomp robot play test

    Last night was HAWKs night.  There were two simultaneous games.  The first was Kurt Schlegel’s 1973 Arab-Israeli War game based on the battle of Quatre Bras.  Since many of the HAWKs supported the 114th Signal Battalion’s SLPD (see http://bucksurdu.com/blog/?p=3350) the various game masters have taken turns running their version of the scenario at club nights.  This week was Kurt’s turn.

    The second game was a play test of Kevin Fischer’s game based on a Japanese anime series.  It involved large stompy robots (actually these are more like battle mechs that have human (or human-like operators) battling each other.  We also had tanks and infantry running around.

    Kurt Schlegel's 1973 Arab Israeli War game based on Quatre Bras

    Kurt Schlegel's 1973 Arab Israeli War game based on Quatre Bras

    Apparently the Egyptians had a slight advantage over the Israelis when the game ended.

    Another view of the Arab Israeli War game

    Another view of the Arab Israeli War game

    The robot game went pretty well for a first play test.  I don’t know the genre, so I don’t know if the game reflects the cartoon well.  It had a few rough edges and can use a little streamlining, but it was fun.

    I hit Mike Fischer's stompy robot in the cockpit in mid leap, and it crashed.

    I hit Mike Fischer's stompy robot in the cockpit in mid leap, and it crashed.

    The game only took a couple of hours, so we had a little time for a game of Red Dragon Inn.

    A quick game of Red Dragon Inn

    A quick game of Red Dragon Inn

     

    Only Seven Days Until Christmas

    Posted By on December 18, 2014

    Dr. Who says, "Merry Christmas whenever you are!"

    Dr. Who says, "Merry Christmas whenever you are!"

    Anything But a Twenty

    Posted By on December 18, 2014

    The "Anything But a Twenty"

    The "Anything But a Twenty"

    Greg Priebe, one of the guys in our gaming group, sent me a note about a toy available at Target stores from the Disney movie, Planes.  It is a good size for 28mm figures and looks like a C-119 cargo plane.  I’ve always liked the look of the C-119.  Before I could take action on his suggestion, I saw this blog posting:  http://www.inlgames.com/c119.htm.

    My pulp games involve Duke Morrison and his buddies, “Wrench” Web and “Boats” Morgan along with his love interest, Gianna Nannini, daughter of the great scientist Serafini Nannini.  Duke Morrison NEEDED a plane.  So within a few days, I had ordered one for me and one for Greg from Target.com.

    Cabbie the cargo plane

    Cabbie the cargo plane

    My son took up the challenge of removing all the red stickers while we watched television one evening.  After a lot of elbow grease and a fair amount of Goo Gone, the plane was ready to paint.

    The airplane after the decals had been removed and the plane sprayed silver

    The airplane after the decals had been removed and the plane sprayed silver

    I first sprayed the plane black and then with a silver paint.  This silver color was brighter than I wanted, so I gave it a third coat of paint, this time an aluminum color.  I then mixed silver and brown paint to make a metallic rust color, which I applied liberally with a wide brush.

    A darker, less shiny paint job with rust added

    A darker, less shiny paint job with rust added

    In the picture (above), you can see the difference between the un-weathered engine cowlings compared to the rusty finish on the rest of the plane.

    First coat of blue paint on the tail, engine cowlings, and nose

    First coat of blue paint on the tail, engine cowlings, and nose

    After the second coat of blue with the propellers painted

    After the second coat of blue with the propellers painted

    I decided to keep the centers of the propellors silver, but painted the tips of the propellers white.  I like that look.

    Then came the challenge of coming up with a name for the plane and appropriate nose art.  After I had considered several names, including Duke’s Duchess and the Granville Gal, Chris suggested Anything But a Twenty.   Granville is the town in which most of my pulp games take place.  ”Anything but a twenty” is a reference to the fact that in G.A.S.L.I.G.H.T., rolls of twenty often cause bad — and usually dramatic — things to occur.

    Below are candidate nose art I built from some Varga pin-up pictures I found on line, some image editing capabilities on my Mac, and a few other elements.

    Duke's Duchess didn't remain in the running too long, but I like this image.

    I really liked the original artwork with the girl in the soldier outfit.

    I liked this artwork, but I was beginning to settle on Anything But a Twenty as the name of the plane

    The final nose art and final airplane name

    Below is a closeup of the nose of the airplane with our heroes posing in front of it.  I printed the nose art on clear, matte address labels.  The artwork didn’t have the vibrance of glossy paper.  At first I was a bit disappointed, but in retrospect, I like the washed-out look.  It seems closer to photos I’ve seen after the plane has had a lot of hard miles.  The faded look seems to fit better with the rusty appearance of the plane.

    "Wrench" Webb, Duke Morrison, Gianna Nannini, and "Boats" Morgan in front of Anything But a Twenty

    "Wrench" Webb, Duke Morrison, Gianna Nannini, and "Boats" Morgan in front of Anything But a Twenty

    I chose a tail number of NC-61326.  Since “Granville Gal” lost out, I chose to use the zip code of the real Granville, IL, which is the town on which I loosely based my town for pulp games.

    "Wrench" Webb inspects bullet holes in the starboard wing

    "Wrench" Webb inspects bullet holes in the starboard wing

    And here is one last look at the plane from a slightly more distant viewpoint than the previous close up.  The border around the nose art didn’t quite disappear, but it’s not too obvious either.

    "Wrench" Webb, Duke Morrison, Gianna Nannini, and "Boats" Morgan in front of Anything But a Twenty

    "Wrench" Webb, Duke Morrison, Gianna Nannini, and "Boats" Morgan in front of Anything But a Twenty

    This was a fun project.  I rarely build or paint airplane models, as I don’t have much luck with them.  In this case, I think the end result was quite good.

     

    Labels for Bear Yourselves Valiantly

    Posted By on December 8, 2014

    A sheet of new labels on die-cut label paper

    A sheet of new labels on die-cut label paper

    The Look, Sarge, No Charts family of rules uses special dice to take the place of chart cards.  During development of the first set of rules, Look, Sarge, No Charts: World War II, I used wooden cubes from a craft store for play testing.  Those cubes are a little smaller than the blank dice that you can buy.  I have been using the store-bought blank dice, but I haven’t updated the size of the labels.

    Side-by-side comparison of the original dice and the new labels

    Side-by-side comparison of the original dice and the new labels

    At Fall In a couple of weeks back, the guy who works at the “Dice Lady” booth mentioned that there are die-cut labels that fit the dice.  I found them from On Line Labels.  The company tries to sell you a proprietary software package to make labels that requires periodic updating (and fees).  They also have a template that works with Microsoft Word.  It took several hours (and a call to the On Line Labels help desk) to reformat the labels for Bear Yourselves Valiantly and Fate of Battle.  Previously I have been printing the slightly smaller ones on full sheets of sticky labor paper and then cutting them out, one at a time.  With the newer pre cut labels, once they are printed, they can be easily peeled and stuck onto the blank dice.

    From the picture above, you can see that the new labels are slightly larger.  This has allowed me to increase the point size of the fonts by one or two points, making the labels much easier to read.

    Comparison of an old and new set of dice

    Comparison of an old (bottom) and new (top) sets of dice for Bear Yourselves Valiantly

    While these are much easier to use than the .pdf files that I have posted to several Web page, I am very hesitant to post these new labels.  The Internet has create a worldwide culture of people who expect others’ intellectual property to be given away for free and will complain and kvetch in public forum when free stuff isn’t perfect.  With these new labels, you have to move them every so slightly left or right on the page to account for slight variations in printers.  That amount of effort will surely illicit complaints on TMP and inquiries into the nature of my parentage.  I’ll make labels available to my co-authors, but I probably won’t make them available to the general public.

    Northwest Frontier

    Posted By on December 7, 2014

    New Northwest Frontier figures

    New Northwest Frontier figures

    Some years ago, at one of the HMGS East conventions, the giveaway for all attendees was a small sprue of four or five 25mm plastic British colonial figures.  Most of the HAWKs handed me their sprues, because they didn’t do any colonial gaming in this scale and thought I could use them in a GASLIGHT game.  I painted several GASLIGHT units in red jackets to use for service on Mars.

    Another view of my recent Northwest Frontier figures

    Another view of my recent Northwest Frontier figures

    As noted in earlier posts, I’ve been picking away at my unpainted lead (or in this case plastic) collection.  So, to finish off these free plastic figures, I decided to paint them for service in the Northwest Frontier.  The sprues only came with rank and file, so the officers, standard bearer (currently missing a flag), and other special figures are Empress Miniatures, ordered from Age of Glory.

    Disney Goes Team Punk

    Posted By on December 7, 2014

    Disney steam punk picture

    Disney steam punk picture

    I was in Orlando last week for a conference for work.  I had an opportunity one evening to spend an hour or two at the Downtown Disney marketplace looking for stocking stuffers for my kids and wife.  In the art store I saw this picture and had to take a photo of it.

    Additional 10mm Figures Completed This Weekend

    Posted By on December 7, 2014

    Copplestone half orc archers

    Copplestone half orc archers

    This weekend I continued to pick away at unpainted 10mm figures.  The three units I finished this weekend were Copplestone 10mm figures.  I like the way the archers are mounted in pairs.  They are easier to paint than individuals, but not as easy to paint as strips of Old Glory or Games Workshop 10mm figures.

    A second unit of Copplestone "City Archers"

    A second unit of Copplestone "City Archers"

    Copplestone "City Archers"

    Copplestone "City Archers"

     

     

    Are Outfits from Sci Fi Outlandish?

    Posted By on December 4, 2014

    Publicity shots of Anne Francis from Forbidden Planet

    Publicity shots of Anne Francis from Forbidden Planet

    I used to think that the women’s outfits in science fiction movies were outlandish and that women wouldn’t dress like that in real file.  While they were sexy, these outfits never seemed very practical.  (I still think that chainmail bikinis are absurd, but lately I’ve begun to think that the outfits in the science fiction movies and shows of the 1950′s through 1970′s foreshadowed today’s fashion in the same way that the Star Trek communicator foreshadowed flip cell phones.) My kids go to a school that requires a uniform in which the girls’ skirts are at a modest length.  What do these teenage girls do?  They “roll” their skirts, rolling up the waist band to raise their skirts three or four inches higher than the dress code requires.  And as soon as school gets out, the girls start waltzing around the malls in outfits more fitting for prostitutes than high school girls.

    Sample of 1940's fashions, which continued to get more attractive for about 15 years.

    Sample of 1940's fashions, which continued to get more attractive for about 15 years

    I will admit that my tastes are a bit dated.  I think the pinnacle of womens’ fashions was reached in the 1940′s and 1950′s.  This post is not meant to offer an opinion that the world is going to Hell, but just to point out that I had a recent epiphany.  Fashions that I thought were ridiculous (though often alluring) in old science fiction movies and television shows were probably not that ridiculous after all.

    Here’s what I mean.  In the far future, would women want to wander around in outfits like this?

    Examples of miniskirts from Star Trek, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and Forbidden Planet

    Examples of miniskirts from Star Trek, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and Forbidden Planet

    Or this?

    Erin Grey publicity still from the second season of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century

    Erin Grey publicity still from the second season of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century

    Well, I did a quick search for “skirts” using Bing and looking at “reputable” Web stores, like Target.com.  I wasn’t looking at porn sites or Fredericks of Hollywood, but below is what I found.  Without looking hard, I found these examples below.  People must be buying them!

    Really short skirts from "reputable" places like Target.com and other on-line catalogs

    Really short skirts from "reputable" places like Target.com and other on-line catalogs

    These are outfits I’ve seen girls wearing at shopping malls or social events with their buddies.  Admittedly, these are not outfits I have seen worn by professional women in office settings, but they are outfits worn in public.

    So how about form-fitting outfits like this one?  As sexy as this is, would women really wear such a thing except while scuba diving in cold water?

    Jet pack girl

    Jet pack girl

    Or these…

    Some random female science fiction outfits

    Some random female science fiction outfits

    Again, a quick Web search found these examples:

    Examples of form-fitting outfits for a quick Google search using the key word "legging"

    Examples of form-fitting outfits for a quick Google search using the key word "legging"

    Frankly, I have never understood women wearing leggings that leave nothing to the imagination and then wearing seven layers of long shirts and coverups.  Why not just wear something a bit more modest?

    Or how about see-through blouses?  Aside from the odd phenomenon in which women reveal more leg and cleavage in formal affairs than in other settings, no one would wear those in public, would they?

    Is the see-through blouse from the UFO science fiction series outlandish? See examples of see-through outfits that some are buying to wear in public.

    Is the see-through blouse from the UFO science fiction series outlandish? See examples of see-through outfits that some are buying to wear in public.

    Except for the purple outfit, which I think is meant for someone on the prowl at a dance club, the other three outfits are things I have seen in stores and other public places.  As someone on the downhill side of 50, there are things I know not to wear anymore; however, most of the women I seen wearing these outfits in public are NOT fashion models from catalogs who can pull off these looks, but they wear them anyway.  So those costume designers were prescient after all!  (By the way, the costume designer for the UFO show pictures above was a woman.)

    Another view of Anne Francis from a Forbidden Planet publicity still

    Another view of Anne Francis from a Forbidden Planet publicity still

    So the next time you are oggling Jeri Ryan (Seven of Nine), Marina Sirtis (Deanna Troi), Gates McFadden (Dr. Crusher), Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia), Anne Francis (Altaira Morbius), Erin Gray (Wilma Deering), or some other science fiction heroine, thinking, “Wow, the twenty-fifth century will be great!” remember that the twenty-fifth century might not be that far off with respect to women’s fashions.

    Wow!  The twenty-fifth century will be great!

    Wow! The twenty-fifth century is great!

    Last Weekend’s Painting

    Posted By on December 3, 2014

    Last weekend's accomplishments: some Copplestone orcs

    In my continuing push to get all my unpainted lead out of the unpainted lead queue, I have been working on 10mm fantasy figures that were sitting in my project box.  In this case, I worked on 60 Copplestone orcs.  I really like these figures.  They had a little more detail than the Games Workshop Battle of Five Armies figures, but still came on strips for easy painting.  I think these turned out nicely.  I also finished six strips of Copplestone orc archers.  I have half orc archers and human archers on the table now and hope to complete them over this coming weekend.